Senate President John Cullerton should heed the advice he’s getting from prominent Democrats.
State Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Chicago, is the subject of increasing scrutiny from federal investigators.
But he’s not the only one getting a lot of heat. So is Sandoval’s Democratic colleague, Senate President John Cullerton, who so far has resisted calls to remove Sandoval from his position as chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.
Republican Senate Leader Bill Brady this week called for Cullerton to take action.
“Given the seriousness of this matter, and in order to protect the interests of Illinois residents, I believe he should be removed from serving as chairman of the Transportation Committee, or any committee,” Brady said.
But it’s not just Republicans who are spotlighting Sandoval’s legal problems. So are Democrats.
Last week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker called for Sandoval’s removal as chairman. He suggested that Sandoval’s key role as a committee chairman overseeing the state’s ongoing $45 billion infrastructure building program puts it under an ethical cloud.
Pritzker has since been joined by other prominent Democrats, including Comptroller Susana Mendoza and legislators who have suggested that if Sandoval does not step aside, Cullerton should remove him.
“I think everybody that serves in this dome, and outside looking in, should be very concerned about these allegations. And he should do the right thing and step aside,” Mendoza said.
Meanwhile, circumstances appear to be getting worse for Sandoval. The FBI recently raided his residence and offices in a search for evidence in connection with what has been characterized as a construction-related bribery scheme.
Hitting the news Thursday was a report that Commonwealth Edison, “along with parent Exelon, received a grand jury subpoena Oct. 4 requiring ‘production of records of any communications with certain individuals and entities, including Illinois state Sen. Martin Sandoval.’”
The information was disclosed in a company filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Raising further intrigue is that it’s the second subpoena the companies have received in recent months. They already are enmeshed in an investigation involving the relationship between their lobbying activities and the potential hiring of associates of Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan as lobbyists.
Indeed, Chicago, Cook County and Springfield are enmeshed in a series of federal investigatory actions that may reflect separate investigations or be a part of a single massive investigation involving multiple prominent and powerful politicos at the municipal, county and state levels.
In that context, removing Sandoval from his committee chairmanship appears to be a relatively small thing. That’s why Cullerton’s refusal to act — he says he wants more information — is increasingly hard to fathom.
President Cullerton removed state Sen. Thomas Cullerton from his chairmanship of the Senate Labor Committee after his cousin was indicted in connection with a ghost-payroll scheme with the Teamsters union.
Sandoval, of course, has yet to be formally charged. But federal criminal investigations don’t get this far into the public eye without indictments on the horizon.
Cullerton’s curiosity about what’s going on is understandable. But if he thinks the feds are going to give him a tutorial in which they explain what they are up to, whom they have targeted and why, he’s certain to be disappointed.
Besides, Cullerton knows enough already. Sandoval, through his committee chairmanship, was a key player in passing the infrastructure program. He’s under investigation for allegedly enriching himself in connection with construction projects.
That’s bad enough. But there’s also his long-standing reputation as a marginal character who would do just the sort of things he’s apparently under investigation for doing.
The longer Cullerton refuses to make the obvious move — stripping Sandoval of his chairmanship — the greater the questions and speculation will be about why Cullerton is showing such deference to a fellow Chicago pol who doesn’t deserve it.